From the Alto Piemonte, directly north of Torino, bordering the Val d’Aosta, comes two separate, but associated cantine: Ravera Chion of Chiaverano & Chiussuma of Carema. The former producing mainly Erbaluce di Caluso; the latter Carema DOC, a blend of Nebbiolo plus 10% ‘Neretti’ (local black grapes).
The common denominator to both is young Matteo Ravera Chion, a tall, astute winemaking graduate of Torino University, whose family roots lie in the ancient glacial, acidic, morenic soils close to Ivrea, home also to Erbaluce di Caluso. Indeed their fruit comes from one of the grape’s most vocational sites, a famous Erbaluce spot near the Lago di Viverone, a volcanic lake, whose leggy vines are trellised high on ‘pergola Calusiese’ (at 1k plants/ha) on the splayed slopes of the Serra di Ivrea, in the comune of Palazzo Canavese. Erbaluce is related to Fiano, having been brought to Piemonte by the Romans. Its finest expression is achieved among the Canavese hills north of Torino, in the comune of Caluso, where it looks up the Val d’Aosta & benefits from its dramatic temperature oscillations. It was first documented in the 1600s by G.B.Croce, & then became Piemonte’s first DOC bianco in 1967. Named ‘Nramia’ after the copper colour of the fruit when ripe, the wine sees no oak & is aged for 12 mths on fine lees.
Also awarded its DOC in 1967, & just further north, 30mins by car up the tightening, sheer, granite & mica on the Piemontese border with the Val d’Aosta, is found the 60ha region of Carema, whose history dates back to 1539 & to the documented works of Papa Paolo III Farnese, in which he celebrated the wines as being worthy of ‘Principi e Signori’ (‘Princes & Gentlemen’). Here Matteo joined forces with locals Rudy & his wife Alessandra to create Chiussuma (named after the waterfall that cascades past their terrace vyd!), & in 2016 their first Carema was born from 3ha of Nebbiolo + fine local Picotener vines trained high on ‘topia’, trellised across granite/mica pillars that delimit the tiny terraced vineyards at up to 600m asl; the morenic soil carried up the impossibly steep slopes from the valley bottom. Vinification is traditional, preserving the integrity of the Nebbiolo, Picotener & ‘Neretti’ grapes, with skin maceration circa 15 days, followed by 18 mths in 500litre used tonneaux.
Production of both wines is limited; notably of the Carema (max. 1200 bts/anno)
Their Carema vineyard is also home to three divine donkeys: Ernesto, Angelica (with long fringe!) & Nerina!
Erbaluce di Caluso ‘Nramia’
2018 Erbaluce di Caluso ‘Nramia’, Ravera Chion – 13% abv. Stainless steel only, with 6 months affinamento on the lees (as opposed to 12months for the previous vintage). 2018 was a more generous vintage, with some notably wet months in May through to July, and then a dryer August. Aromas of stone fruit, orange peel and wild mountain herbs. Lovely ripeness on the palate, quite rich and creamy (did malolactic), yet mineral and with such freshness & purity too. Thick skins are gently pressed, but without skin contact, so keeping the freshness & aromatics alive. Good acidity and plenty of pulpy stone fruit at its core, with notes of wild honey, a gorgeous texture, and fine tannins. To be released in September – very drinkable now but it also has potential to age..
2016 Erbaluce ‘Nramia’ Vino Bianco, Ravera Chion – 12.5% abv, 12 mths affinamento on the lees in stainless-steel, bright pale yellow/miele – the word ‘Nramia’ is dialect for the honey/lemon colour of the wine, but the wine is unofficially Erbaluce di Caluso DOC, as it was in vintage 2015, & it will be again in vintage 2018 (as 2017 was not made due to hail, purtroppo)! The nose is crystalline, Val d’Aosta fresh, snow pure with delicate, lime spremuta, soft, pure, grape & yellow plum fruit notes, with racy, glacial, granite freshness coursing through it – spettacolare! Similarly to the taste, it’s very delicate, with glistening purity, the finest of creamy leesy texture, so transparent & Alpine pure, a hint of yellow pressee/spremuta, of citrus pulp; love its effortless weight, of minerals, mica bright, the most delicate of bianco spina fragrance, layered, yet remains so prim & pretty. Gorgeous, but only 1,500 bts produced. Vintage 2018 Erbaluce di Caluso will be available from Sept’19.
2017 Carema, Chiussuma -14.2%, bottled settembre 2019, differs from the debut 2016 vintage in that it’s: 100% Nebbiolo (80% local Picotener clone), vinified for less time on the skins (15 days vs 20 in 2016), spending 18 mths in one used tonneaux & one barrique, as yields were down to 1000 bts in the dry vintage. Bright translucent, red/orange, there’s a racy lift to this mountain wine, spirited, with orange peel, cold tar, tiny red berries, cold tea & mountain freshness. On the palate, it’s pulsating, electric, such detail & purezza, driven, with pure Nebbiolo lines & refinement, the oak framing the wine, red cherry stones, glistening. A very exciting follow-up.
2016 Carema, Chiussuma -13.5%, bottled spring 2019, an exciting debut release, if only 1,200 bts from 40 yo vines (90% Nebbiolo clones Picotener & Michet, 10% local ‘Neretti’), trellised high up on terraced, stone topia/pillars & pergola at between 300 – 600m asl, aged in two French tonneaux of 500Litri, plus another six months in bottle. A mountain bright, transparent, glistening, intense colour of ruby/rosso/garnet! The nose is similarly just as exciting & uplifting: Alpine fresh & stunningly perfumed, with glacial/ier back cherry, smoky mica/granite minerality, beautifully sculpted/curato, a hint of rose, delicate Pinot-esque tonneaux spice in the background; on the palate, it’s electric, Alpine pure, snow-driven, yet fluid & juicy at the same, plenty of joy here, but pulsating, tingling with (Val d’Aosta?) energy, precision, pace & freshness! Very exciting debut.